Washington’s disappointing 12-11 record and last-place Pac-12 showing at 2-8 has elicited plenty of angst and finger pointing among disgruntled Husky fans who expected much more from the defending conference champions.
We can’t answer every question or address each of UW’s litany of problems in the this edition of the UW hoops mailbag, but we’ll certainly try. Let’s get to it.
Now this is how you start a mailbag post. Pay attention folks, let’s all aspire to be like Thomas A who did a little digging and brought some research to the conversation.
It’s true Oregon was in dire straits two weeks before the Pac-12 Tournament last year. The Ducks had a three-game losing streak and had dropped nine of the previous 16 games before winning the next 10 games. Oregon became just the second team to win four games at the Pac-12 Tournament and the Ducks advanced to the Sweet 16.
Now is there any reason to believe Washington can pull out of its tailspin and go on a double-digit winning streak to advance to the second weekend of the NCAAs like Oregon did last year?
Short answer: No.
I’d have to see a whole lot more from this UW team to believe it’s capable of winning more than a handful of its remaining eight regular-season games.
Still, there are a few interesting correlations between UW and Oregon.
Last season, the Ducks had to adjust to the loss of star center Bol Bol who injured his foot in December and played just nine games. It took Oregon a while to finally find the chemistry up front and gel into a cohesive team.
Washington is 1-7 since losing Quade Green, who is academically ineligible, and still trying to find a level of comfort with freshman Marcus Tsohonis and sophomore Jamal Bey at point guard.
Oregon surrendered 90 points at UCLA before its 10-game winning streak, which was unusual for the Ducks who led the Pac-12 last season in scoring defense (62.2 points per game). During its streak, Oregon allowed just one team to score more than 54 points.
Washington ranks third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (64.9 points), but the Huskies have allowed at least 75 points in the past three games. If UW is going to make a similar run and turn things around then it has to start with its defense.
The Huskies are 1-6 this season when allowing at least 75 points.
Last I checked (which was minutes before writing this post), McDaniels was projected as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft by NBAdraft.net. He’s the No. 9 pick on the CBSsports.com mock draft and the No. 10 pick on the Yahoo Sports mock draft.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com rates him as the No. 13 draft prospect on its top 100 list.
From Yahoo Sports: “McDaniels passes the eye test for an elite wing, but there are still some inconsistencies with his game.”
And from CBSsports.com: “McDaniels has the skill set to operate on the perimeter, which is the main thing that makes him a high-level and obvious one-and-done prospect. His production has slipped in recent weeks while Washington fell to 2-6 in the Pac-12 — and those two facts are certainly related. Mike Hopkins even removed the talented forward from the starting lineup. But McDaniels is still averaging 12.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in 32.2 minutes per game.”
The 6-foot-9 freshman forward is something of a polarizing figure due to his immense talents, propensity to collect technical fouls (five) and Pac-12 leading 72 turnovers.
Soft on Hop? Not sure about that considering we’ve tried to hold folks accountable while explaining why the season hasn’t lived up to expectations.
Zero adjustments during games? Also, have to quibble with that one. Hopkins has tinkered dramatically with the lineup and strategy in the past few weeks while trying to find playmakers.
No accountability for the Green fiasco? Again, not seeing it. Hopkins took this one on the chin. He said everyone, including Green, dropped the ball here.
Team has shown no improvement? For the most part, that’s true. Even though the midseason additions of freshmen RaeQuan Battle and Tsohonis have been a pleasant surprise, it’s impossible to say a team that started 10-2 and has lost 9 of the past 11 games has made improvements.
Hopkins was asked Thursday if he’s going to alternate between the zone and man-to-man defense like he did early in the season. He definitely said no.
Hopkins was also asked if he’d employ a full-court press like he did last week against Arizona State. Hopkins said those decisions are dictated by the situation and implied UW needs to improve its zone defense.
It’s always a good idea to score in transition and for Washington that usually means scoring after a steal or a block. According to KenPom, UW ranks No. 32 nationally in average possession length, which suggest the Huskies are looking to score quickly once they get the ball.
In regards to “Hop being in over his head,” we’ll address that in a bit.
And I think it’s disingenuous to suggest Hopkins “profited from a cupboard full of talent” when he inherited a team that was 9-22 and 2-16 in the Pac-12.
In terms of the Pac-12, four teams (Arizona – 9, Colorado – 18, Oregon 19 and Stanford – 21) are ranked among the top 25 teams in the NET, which is the third most among any conference in the nation.
It’s almost crazy that these types of questions get asked. And not crazy in regards to Brandon Roy, who I think is an excellent coach who has done an amazing job with the Nathan Hale and Garfield High basketball teams.
But it’s insane to move so quickly away from a guy who is the reigning two-time Pac-12 coach of the year. The same guy who lead UW to a Pac-12 regular-season title and the second round of the NCAA tournament last year.
Let’s let this whole thing play out before we talk about replacing anyone. And even if UW doesn’t win another game this season – which is a possibility – I wouldn’t even remotely consider any type of change among the coaching staff.
I believe Hopkins’ honeymoon is over, but he’s bought himself plenty of goodwill in my book after restoring a program that had endured several years of irrelevancy.
This is a great question to end the mailbag.
Last week Hopkins all but confirmed Stewart will enter the NBA draft after the season when the UW coach said: “Unfortunately, we’re only going to have him for a year, but I think his impact will be lasting.”
And by most accounts, McDaniels will also enter the draft considering he’s a projected lottery pick.
I fully expect Carter will “test the waters” and go through the draft process. I could see him receiving an invitation and participating in the NBA G League Elite Camp and he’ll have a decision to make much like Jaylen Nowell, who left with two years of eligibility remaining and was taken with the No. 43 overall pick in the second round by Minnesota.
Assuming Carter returns and continues to progress, then Washington should be in pretty good shape.
The Huskies could roll out a lineup that includes Tsohonis and Green in the backcourt alongside Carter and Hameir Wright on the frontline. Conceivably, Roberts or Penn-Johnson would compete for the fifth spot and the loser likely falls out of the eight-man rotation that Hopkins prefers.
That leaves Bey, Battle and J’Raan Brooks, the USC transfer and former Garfield High standout who is redshirting, to comprise a formidable a ‘Killer Bs’ trio off the bench.
It’s interesting to note, UW will likely have at least two scholarships available and has not signed anyone to fill those spots. It’s possible Hopkins considers bringing in a graduate transfer or junior-college transfer to add depth at the guard position.